We celebrated our oldest daughter Siobhan’s 16th birthday at the end of September and one of the things she really wanted to do for her birthday was to visit some attractions which she had on her list of favourite things to do, top of the list was a trip to the Space Centre in Leicester and we couldn’t wait to take her there.
Siobhan has ASD and all her life she has been fascinated with Space, before she was able to read independently she would pour over pages and pages of information about space and planets and her interest hasn’t waned at all over the years. We have friends who have autistic children who regularly visit the Space Centre and I know it is a subject that many children and adults with autism find very interesting. We call Siobhan’s interests her ‘specialist subjects’ as is common with kids with ASD to find a topic (or a few topics) and study them in some depth, some they will move on from but some interests will stay with them for years.
For Siobhan her interest in Space has been her ‘specialist subject’ since she was a little girl and is still a fascinating thing to her to study and learn more about, we were thrilled to take her to the Space Centre and the day was hotly anticipated by her and her exuberance has transferred onto her little sister who is showing a keen interest in Space too, which is just as well as she has just started learning about it in school this term.
We arrived at the National Space Centre at 10am in Leicester, it’s an easy trip for us as the journey only took an hour by car, once we had parked and paid and displayed (£3.00 for the whole day) we were ready to explore. Even before you walk into the centre there is plenty to see outside including the spaceship shaped centre (the Rocket Tower) that looks so impressive from the outside. There are eight sections to the Space Centre and it’s worth planning out what you will see in order so you don’t miss anything, don’t worry you can pick up a detailed map once you check in at the desk.
Once inside we walked through the very authentic looking entrance we were just in time to catch the showing in the Planetarium something that Siobhan had really been looking forward to so I was glad we didn’t miss it. The show didn’t disappoint at all and was really informative and visually amazing, looking over at the girls faces while the production was on was a picture as they were just enthralled! It’s the largest domed planetarium in Europe and well worth visiting once you are at the centre.
Once the Planetarium performance had ended we made our way to the Rocket Tower at 42 meters high it was a fun climb in the lift to the top as you can look down (if you are brave!) through the glass surrounds as you go up. There is so much to see and take in and the main two things not to miss once exploring the Rocket Tower are the Blue Streak and the Moon Rock. The Blue Streak rocket was originally a missile but was adapted to be Europe’s first satellite launcher programme Europa, it is amazing to take a look at and we were all interested to find out more about Blue Streak and there is plenty of information at the centre.
To see a 1000kg Moon Rock was very special (the largest piece found in the UK) and once Siobhan had read all about it being very sensory she had a good feel of the Moon Rock as it has such a rough surface. Wonderful to get up close and really inspect such an amazing Lunar sample which was collected by Gene Cernan from the Apollo 17 mission.
We headed back down to explore the Into Space, Exploring The Universe and The Planets exhibitions really fun and fascinating with lots of information on each separate section which isn’t just reserved for kids as we found it really interesting too. There are plenty of interactive hands-on activities for the kids to take part in, and it is clear that the centre are continually enhancing the features of the exhibitions to hold the public’s interest by including plenty of different mediums of displays. Don’t forget to go into the mock-up of the Columbus Module from the International Space Centre, as this was a real highlight for my girls to see what it would really be like inside a space ship.
We had some lunch in the Boosters Cafe which I have to say was great to see reasonable prices rather than some of the over inflated prices at most attractions! The girls had nachos and a hot dog and some very blue slushie’s and we had baguettes and coffee’s, all very tasty and with change from a £20 note we were amazed! If you do eat at Booster’s and have children with ASD do be aware that at regular intervals the rocket booster’s located on the ceiling do make a very loud noise. This would have been a real issue for Siobhan when she was younger and I know she would have had to leave the room, so do be aware if your child has similar concerns.
After we had some lunch and a chat about all we had seen we continued on to explore the Orbiting Earth, Space Now and Tranquility Earth exhibitions, where you can become a trainee astronaut, announce the news in a weather pod (really fun for the kids) and learn about some of the most asked questions about space and the universe. The queue for Tranquility Earth was reasonably long and we waited about 20 minutes to join the small ‘crew’ and learn how to be one of the space team, and from a parents perspective it would be a great idea to add some benches or seats to sit down while visitors wait.
It’s a suggestion that we have passed on to the management team, as particularly for Siobhan who has ASD and Dyspraxia got very restless with and in fact she ended up sitting on the floor to wait for the space journey. It’s a small thing but as it presented itself to us I am sure it would affect other parents, it’s good to know they have taken on board visitors suggestions though and are planning to offer suitable seating in that area.
Once we were ready to finish the tour (after 4 hours) we headed for the gift shop to buy some keepsakes for the girls, there is plenty on offer and again the prices of the smaller items are very reasonable so we did buy them a few little things to remember the day.
Even though my girls are different ages 9 and 16 , they both thoroughly enjoyed the whole day and got so much out of the visit in different ways. Lara is just learning about space and the universe at school so this really helped her understanding, and Siobhan found re-visiting the facts about space just as interesting as the first time she read about it. She even learned new facts which she loved as she knows so much about the subject which was fantastic. I would highly recommend the Space Centre for a great family day out and we are already planning our next trip.